We do not know our neighbors. Our families are fractured, living hundreds of miles apart. Grandparents no longer play an integral role in education our young. For the most part we do not trust our political leaders. We feel isolated in a world of billions and inept at solving the problems of even our small circle of friends. This is especially true of industrialized nations like the USA.
In 1999 Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson decided to address the issue. They envisioned a new gathering of world leaders who would come together to guide and support the global village: leaders trusted in their homelands and free from political, military or economic pressures. The Elders only purpose - to ease suffering in three essential areas:
1) Offer a catalyst for the peaceful resolution of conflict.
2) Seek solutions to seemingly gridlocked global issues.
3) Share wisdom, reach out to a new generation of leaders and amplify the voices of good from all over the world.
Branson and Gabriel approached Desmond Tutu who enthusiastically helped to gather some of the most respected humanitarians and diplomats to form The Elders. At the launch ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa Tutu introduced the members. On the stage were Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machal, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando H. Cardoso, Li Zahoxing, Mary Robinson, Aung San Su Kyi, and Muhammad Yunus. Read each of their biographies on theelders.org.
Their first act as a group was to resurrect interest in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of this important document. Every country in the world has signed the declaration but few live up to all of its tenets. Now, we can all sign our names to the declaration, pledging to uphold the principles as individuals.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, said, "Part of the wisdom of the Elders is to remind the young of values...to remind the world that we actually have universal values that are accepted by every government in the world and yet they are not being implemented."
Theirs (and ours) is a noble cause indeed.